Trump, in 2020 cam­paign mode, calls Democrats ‘rad­i­cal’

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jill Colvin, Jonathan Lemire and Michael Sch­nei­der

OR­LANDO, FLA. >> Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump jabbed at the press and poked the po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment he ran against in 2016 as he kicked off his re­elec­tion cam­paign with a griev­ance-filled rally fo­cused more on set­tling scores than lay­ing out his agenda for a pos­si­ble sec­ond term.

Ad­dress­ing a crowd of thou­sands at Or­lando’s Amway Cen­ter on Tues­day night, Trump com­plained he was “under as­sault from the very first day” of his pres­i­dency by a “fake news me­dia” and an “il­le­gal witch hunt” that had tried to keep him and his sup­port­ers down.

He painted a dis­turb­ing pic­ture of what life would look like if he loses in 2020, ac­cus­ing his crit­ics of “unAmer­i­can con­duct” and say­ing Democrats “want to de­stroy you and they want to de­stroy our coun­try as we know it.”

“A vote for any Demo­crat in 2020 is a vote for the rise of rad­i­cal so­cial­ism and the de­struc­tion of the American dream,” he said. Trump made only pass­ing men­tion of any of the Democrats run­ning to re­place him even as he tossed out “rad­i­cal” and “un­hinged” to de­scribe the ri­val party.

Trump has long railed against the spe­cial coun­sel’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus

sian med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion and the on­go­ing probes by House Democrats in the af­ter­math of Robert Mueller’s re­port .

The apoc­a­lyp­tic lan­guage and fin­ger-point­ing made clear that Trump’s 2020 cam­paign will prob­a­bly look a whole lot like his run three years ago. Even af­ter two-and-a-half years in the Oval Of­fice, Trump re­mains fo­cused on en­er­giz­ing his base and of­fer­ing him­self as a po­lit­i­cal out­sider run­ning against Wash­ing­ton.

Repub­li­can Party Chair­woman Ronna McDaniel tweeted Wed­nes­day morn­ing that Trump had raised $24.8 mil­lion in less than 24 hours for his re­elec­tion.

In his speech, Trump spent con­sid­er­ably more time fo­cused on former Demo­cratic ri­val Hil­lary Clin­ton than on his cur­rent 2020 chal­lengers, even though she is not on the bal­lot.

Thou­sands of Trump sup­port­ers be­gan gath­er­ing out­side the arena on Mon­day.

“Trump has been the best pres­i­dent we’ve ever had,” said Ron Fre­itas, a re­tired Mer­chant Marine and reg­is­tered Demo­crat from Or­lando.

Hun­dreds of anti-Trump pro­test­ers clapped and took pho­tos when a 20-foot (6-me­ter) blimp of a snarling Trump baby in a di­a­per was in­flated. Some mem­bers of the far-right hate group Proud Boys were also spot­ted march­ing out­side the rally.

Trump aides sched­uled Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and first lady Me­la­nia Trump greet sup­port­ers at a rally where the pres­i­dent for­mally an­nounced his 2020 re-elec­tion bid Tues­day in Or­lando, Fla. the kick­off near the fouryear an­niver­sary of the day when the former re­al­ity tele­vi­sion star and New York tabloid fixture launched his long­shot cam­paign for pres­i­dent with a fa­mous es­ca­la­tor ride in front of a crowd that in­cluded paid ac­tors.

Trump spoke fondly of his 2016 race, call­ing it “a defin­ing mo­ment in American his­tory.” He said that in the years since, he had up­ended Wash­ing­ton, star­ing down “a cor­rupt and bro­ken po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment” and restor­ing a government “of, for and by the peo­ple.”

He never has re­ally stopped run­ning. He filed for re­elec­tion on Jan. 20, 2017, the day of his in­au­gu­ra­tion, and held his first 2020 rally in Fe­bru­ary, 2017, in nearby Mel­bourne. He has con­tin­ued hold­ing his sig­na­ture “Make Amer­ica Great Again” ral­lies in the months since.

Trump asked the crowd whether he should stick with “Make Amer­ica Great Again” or up­grade his slo­gan. His new one — “Keep Amer­ica Great” — was greeted with bois­ter­ous cheers.

Trump is hop­ing to repli­cate the dy­nam­ics that al­lowed him to take charge of the Repub­li­can Party and then the pres­i­dency as an in­sur­gent in­tent on dis­rupt­ing the sta­tus quo. In 2016, he suc­cess­fully ap­pealed to dis­af­fected vot­ers who felt left behind by eco­nomic dis­lo­ca­tion and de­mo­graphic shifts. He has no in­ten­tion of aban­don­ing that man­tle, even if he is the face of the in­sti­tu­tions he looks to dis­rupt.

The pres­i­dent un­der­scored that on the eve of the rally in must-win Florida, re­turn­ing to the hard­line im­mi­gra­tion themes of his first cam­paign by tweet­ing that next week, Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment “will be­gin the process of re­mov­ing the mil­lions of il­le­gal aliens who have il­lic­itly found their way into the United States.”

That prom­ise, which came with no de­tails and sparked Demo­cratic con­dem­na­tion, seemed to of­fer a peek into a cam­paign that will largely be fought along the same lines as his first bid, with very few new pol­icy pro­pos­als for a sec­ond term.

Early Demo­cratic fron­trun­ner Joe Bi­den said Trump’s pol­i­tics are “all about di­vid­ing us” in ways that are “dan­ger­ous — truly, truly dan­ger­ous.”

An­other lead­ing Demo­cratic con­tender, Ver­mont Sen. Bernie San­ders, said Trump had de­liv­ered “an hour-and-a-half speech of lies, dis­tor­tions and to­tal, ab­so­lute non­sense.”

But those in­volved in the pres­i­dent’s re­elec­tion ef­fort be­lieve his ver­sion of pop­ulism, com­bined with his mantra to “Drain the Swamp,” still res­onates, de­spite his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ties with lob­by­ists and cor­po­ra­tions and the Trump family’s ap­par­ent ef­forts to profit off the pres­i­dency.

Near the rally’s end, Trump ran through a list of prom­ises for a sec­ond term, pledg­ing a new im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem, new trade deals, a health care over­haul and a cure for cancer and “many dis­eases,” in­clud­ing erad­i­cat­ing AIDS in Amer­ica.

EVAN VUCCI — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks dur­ing his re-elec­tion kick­off rally at the Amway Cen­ter on Tues­day in Or­lando, Fla.

JOHN RAOUX — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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